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29o                HISTORY OF PERSIA
and translucent, has a beauty of its own, and perhap
surpasses its model in freedom and boldness of design
Even comparatively modern Persian basins, and plates o
a creamy white paste with coloured floral decoration an
distinctly attractive and are beginning to be noticed b]
the collector.
Carpets.—The carpets of Persia form an almost in-
exhaustible theme, and although numerous works hav<
appeared on this subject a really good book still remain!
to be written. The antiquity of the carpet is great
references to it dating back to the third millennium B.C.,
and Sir George Birdwood1 is of opinion that there has
been cc no material modification in the artistic and technical
character" since the earliest description of these fabrics.
It must, however, be noted that the imposition of Islam
on Persia affected their designs, which fall into two classes:
(a) Those expressing the Shia spirit in animals, trees,
blossoms, flowers, with free graceful scrolls, conventional
arabesques and cartouches enclosing inscriptions ; and
(£) those in which the design, reflecting the Sunni
austerity, is limited to geometrical and angular forms,
such as the Turkoman carpets with their bazukqnd*'vr
"armlet" patterns.
To this spirit we mainly owe the wonderful develop-
ment in Persia of floral and geometrical designs and of
arabesques on which the patterns of our curtains, of our
wall-papers, of our carpets, and of many other articles
are based in England to-day. To quote Birdwood, " the
new and severely conventionalised floral type, applied
either as a diaper, or in the c Tree of Life' and c Knop
and Flower' patterns, gradually prevailed; and as modified
in the freer drawing and more natural delineations of the
ItalianesqueAbbasi carpets, it characterises the predominant
denominations of Persian carpets."
?Under the Sasanian dynasty Persian fabrics known
as Susancherd were highly prized in the West, and when
Ctesiphon was captured by Sad, among the loot was a
1  "The Antiquity of Oriental Carpets/* Journal Royal Socy. of Arts for November
2  A bassuband is generally an octagonal metal box  containing a portion of the
Koran j it is worn to afford protection.